Ipod commercials have been known to streamline bands to bigger-than-big musical success (plus inflated record sales), and The Asteroid Galaxy Tour is no exception to this cardinal rule of platinum hits. After their single “Around the Bend” blew up (figuratively), Lars Iversen and Mette Lindberg started taking their original and infectious disco/pop/funk sounds out of Denmark and into the global stratosphere. Their full-length album, Fruit, will release in May, and until then, the six-piece ensemble will make their first appearance at SXSW, followed by an American concert schedule. The name was coined by the band’s Moroccan trumpet player, and like their sound, is nothing short of distinctive.
Are there any Danish elements of the band? Lars Iversen: No, I wouldn’t say that. We are not a typical Danish act. Most bands in Denmark play more melancholic, moody music — indie rock and electronica. And this is more influenced by American music, especially soul in the 60s and 70s.
Have you thought about recording in Danish? LI: It’s just much easier to express yourself in English when it comes to the lyrics because it sounds so clumsy in Danish. It’s such a weird language. And you only have one word for one thing, while in English, there are many words that can describe the same thing. ML: And because our first language is Danish, we have another way of creating the lyrics. All of our thoughts about the lyrics are different because English is our second language. We might say something and it’s different from the way you would say it if you had English as your first language. It twists it a little bit, because we have to look up words and find the meaning sometimes. We don’t know everything because it’s not our first language, so, we hear it differently. What was the first song that helped you find your signature sound? ML: Every song had its own, and then as time went by, it gathered and the sound came through. LI: I had already written five or six songs and sketches for songs, and I presented them to Mette, and we don’t remember which one we picked as the first one to work on, but in a few weeks we made the album sketches. There wasn’t one particular song that created the sound for the rest of the album. We think it’s 10 different styles in the tracks that are glued together by the sound. It’s not like we’re trying to make it sound similar. ML: We feel like, if you have heard a single, it’s not what you get on the album necessarily. It has some of the same, but it’s 10 different things. If you hear two songs, you haven’t heard it all.
How did you get your start in music? ML: From childhood and listening to music. Lars played jazz piano. I played the flute. I played with my sister and my cousins. We’ve always had a love for music.
How many instruments do you play now? LI: Many. Thousands. No, I really play bass and piano, guitar and drums.
In the song “Golden Age,” you talk about the era of Sinatra. Is that a time of inspiration? ML: I don’t know if I seek so directly for inspiration. The song is about dreaming away and thinking about times years ago and wishing that you lived then and experienced that. LI: It just seems like life was so much easier back then. You had this feeling that was so romantic and honest and everything made sense. And today, everything goes so fast.
The song “Lady Jesus” is about a religious extremist in Copenhagen. Who is she? ML: Well, we had this place where young people, artists and punks hung out. You could eat there and sleep there among creative people. And everyone could be safe. And then a religious leader bought the house. It belonged to the young people in Copenhagen, but some rules of the city had changed, and she was allowed to buy it. She wanted to save all of the young people from the devil and bad creative things. Then she bulldozed the house, and there were people in the streets for weeks, burning things and throwing stones. There were no lights in the streets, and police all over. People were so angry and sad. LI: It was a really nice cultural institution that went away, and there were never any fights there or any problems. It was just young punks who wanted to have a meeting place, and now it’s gone.
Did you ever spend any time there? ML: Yes, of course. Inside, it was like an old theatre with domed ceiling and balconies and a big stage. LI: There were drawings all over the walls and it was trashed, but still beautiful. ML: So the song was inspired by that feeling that the city had at that time, and also the fact that she wanted to save everyone, but who is really saving who?
How do you work together in the writing stage of your songs? ML: Mostly Lars has a sketch for the song — it could be a beat with some horns and a melody, or a text, and then he’ll play it for me and tell me his ideas, and then I’ll add my ideas. It may be one chorus that we build from, or it may be a melody with a beat. As I see it, I feel like every song has a different approach. I think you can feel it in the music that it’s not just a guitar and music, or it’s not only a piano and music. It can be started from somewhere else. So, none of them are made the same way.
How did you expand to six members from the original two? LI: I guess it started because people wanted to see us live, and we got so many requests, and then suddenly there was an offer that we couldn’t refuse. But, we had never played. It was only the two of us so we had to think really fast, and it was less than two weeks before the show. We just had to urgently call all of our friends. We rehearsed one or two times and then played a set in front of 2,000 people. That was our first show.
Did you meet Amy Winehouse when you opened for her? LI: We didn’t get to meet her … we saw her afterward, and she was just super drunk.
Is SXSW your first festival in the States? ML: Yes, and we’ve never been to Austin before. We’re looking forward to finding a lot of good hot sauce.
What has been your favorite venue that you’ve played so far? ML: We’ve played some really cool venues in Germany. We also had a great experience at Webster Hall and at the Loft on Bond Street and at Pianos. We like it when people are alive. It’s more the crowd than the place. We like a nice, cozy place with old furniture and people bouncing around. LI: A really small stage is also really nice. It makes the crowd more intimate with the band onstage. Either that or a really big stage. So you can headbang.
How has life changed since the iPod commercial? LI: Now I want to play music everywhere for everybody. And in space maybe. ML: We’re still hanging on to the first thing which was just playing outside of Denmark and playing for a lot of people. We like traveling around and having a good time. We’re doing what we dreamed of.
Do you have any rock star fantasies? ML: To enter the stage in a space ship or a Pegasus.
What are you listening to now? ML: Beck and Gnarls Barkley LI: James Brown.
Mette, how’d you break your arm before the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg? ML: It was during the music video for “Around the Bend” and halfway through the set I had to jump from this box, and I fell on my arm and broke my wrist on both sides. I went to the emergency room and got a cast, and then we shot the rest of the video. If you look, you can see the cast in the video, but it’s animated like hands. I think it looked cool.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? LI: I wanted to draw houses, be an architect. ML: Maybe I would be a clown in the streets.
What places have you liked best in New York? LI: We like the Frying Pan. We did a photo shoot there. We found an old, dusty piano and we played these ragtime versions of our songs.